What is it?
Alcohol is a colorless, flammable liquid that is produced by the natural fermentation of sugars and is the intoxicating part of wine, beer, spirits, and other drinks.
What does it do?
Alcohol is a sedative. It slows down the body's systems and interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, and can affect the way the brain works. These disruptions can change mood and behavior, and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination. As the amount of alcohol one drinks increases, so does the level of impairment. Tolerance develops when one drinks more often, and needs to drink more in quantity, to feel the same effects.
- Slurred speech, lack of coordination, blurred vision, slowed reaction time
- Nausea or vomiting, hangovers, memory loss or blackouts
- Accidents or injuries while drinking
- Some medical conditions can be caused, and others worsened, by drinking
- Inappropriate alcohol use interferes with work, school and/or other activities
Learn more about warning signs
Effects on the Brain
Alcohol use can be risky, whether or not someone has developed an addiction (substance use disorder). The reason some are more affected by a certain amount of alcohol while others are less affected is unknown. The sedative effect of alcohol in the brain can cause bodily systems to shut down, and in extreme cases of alcohol poisoning, death can result. Substance use disorders develop when the brain is exposed to an amount of a drug, in this case alcohol, that causes structural and chemical changes to occur in the brain. There is no way to know how much alcohol may cause the development of an addiction in any one person, and it is different for different people. The structural and chemical changes that occur in the brain cause the pleasure-seeking part of the brain to override the rest. This is why people with an alcohol use disorder feel compelled to use more, even if it causes harm.
Nicknames include juice, sauce, booze, hooch, suds, vino, liquid courage and moonshine. Individual brands may also have related nicknames that are not listed here.
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